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Danger Music



When I was born—the sky was thick with white & wanting
to discharge—two hands large as airships—& I longed for touch—


I spend the morning collecting pictures of hands—
them with holes in their palms—them flecked with veins—
& from a black & white film—a man
growing ant hills on his palms—


I was eight & had a lonely body—
I believed the hands that touched me were gifts—

were vessels hovering the small sky—of my body—


for the longest time—I didn’t feel—the horror in their palms—I didn’t feel—
the ants burrowing new anthills inside me—& for the longest time

I missed them—


years later I learned—what his hands had done—in silence—

& the silence broke—all the mirrors in the house—furious
dreams riddled my head—every other night—& morning

licked the dirt from my gums—


at my first gay bar—a silent film burns
the screens on its walls—images drowned by bass—where a man begets

a mouth on his palm—& the mouth is good—& the man
learns pleasure—from the mouth—I learned pleasure


by replaying my past—& each time—I buried my body in the desert—I spat out
the ants still cluttering my stomach—I meet a man

who looks like him—& the night
shimmers with enamel—sometimes even the sky has teeth—


in the bathroom—at the bar—the man unzips
his chest—touches my face—I smell—in his hands—brunt cinder—old dirt—
I lick his palm—in the cubicle’s blinking light—I try to taste

in him my past—to reopen the wound—& there—
I feel a tongue push back—



The Floating Poem



after Adrienne Rich, for R—

Whatever happened with us
in the long, spent years of our fleshing, you left
behind a particle of you: some quiet
poem of sweat or spit, the grain of your sorrow,
perhaps, suspended
in the space of your leaving. It follows
across the hall, into the bed, in the whiff
of the morning’s brew, & holds, for a second, your body
inside mine, your leanness, the throat
I kissed, my fingers traversing the fuzz
on your back, wet kiss, inelegant
mouth, which took in your hot
breath like a river. I come & come to
this moment: the lingering taste of your salt.



The Search



You keep waking. & on the shelf
next to your bed, a snow globe, a city
underwater. You keep waking & the sky
is fattened with summer, bursting
with sun, the treetops enflamed,
so much green on the streets today.
In the perfectly round plate,
a perfectly round yolk, & on the sidewalk,
on your way to the university, a single leaf
unstirred by the hot breeze. You move
through this wave of air looking
for something spectacular in the city.

Last year, a white whale
stopped the traffic on I-10, though the ocean
is exactly 1,894.20 miles away. You know
this distance by heart. A carnival crossed
the border from México & settled
at a landfill in Socorro. Everyone you knew
made lines for the spectacle. Six performers
hung from a trapeze forming figures
10,400 ft in the sky. How free
they must’ve felt holding each other up
in the clouds, their shadows
carving lines on the sun.

That summer, a blizzard
lacquered the desert in snow, & a single ray
of sun refracted three rainbows like a prism.
There was talk of a great bird soaring
the night, its white plumage littering
the streets. After class, the day
closes in: a pink sky. Stale fries & a cold
beer. A cricket bends its distant song
for nightfall. In bed, you shake
the globe, watch the city’s color reappear
from under a powdered cloud. You go
outside for a smoke. & a thought:

where has joy gone to
in this country of sand? You search
the sky. In space, a star explodes
into seven colors & a black hole.
Inside it, your distant future
streams, like tributaries, into dreams
of glass cities & red skies. But today,
the sky is black. & in its silence,
the smallest cloud above your head
sheds a flake of ice onto your cheek.

Aldo Amparán is the author of Brother Sleep (Alice James Books, September 2022), winner of the 2020 Alice James Award. Born & raised in the border cities of El Paso, TX, USA, & Ciudad Juárez, CH, MX, they have received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts & CantoMundo. Their work most recently appears in the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, AGNI, New England Review, Ploughshares, Southeast Review & elsewhere.

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